Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July Newsletter

It must be getting close to vacation time. As I sat down to write this I heard a voice saying “write something about Sabbath” over and over again.

And since I have, sort of, learned that I should sometimes listen to the voices in my head, and because I have no other ideas, and because sabbath time is such an important thing....

How are you taking Sabbath Time this summer?

Note that I assume you are. Which might well be a big assumption – and assumptions are always dangerous – but it is an assumption I am making intentionally. For many of us, particularly those of us with school-aged children, summer is a bit of a slower season. Many programs have gone on hiatus, we have more free time, and so we find it a season of “taking it easy”, or at least of being busy in a different way.

So how are you taking Sabbath Time this summer?

There is another assumption behind the question. The assumption that sabbath time is a good thing, that it is something we should be doing. In fact my assumption is that sabbath time is mandatory for our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Why else would it be a commandment?

Because look at the 10 Commandments. There it is in black and white, chizelled on the stones that Charlton Heston carries down the mountain. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Take time off. Don't work all the time.

Scripture gives us two reasons for keeping sabbath. One is that we rest because God rested. God rested on the seventh day and so should we. Later in the Scripture story we find the Jesus also takes sabbath time. He also disappears to rest and pray and rejuvenate himself. The other reason we are told to rest, to take sabbath, is because we are no longer slaves. Slaves don't get to choose if or when they get to rest. People who are not slaves DO get that choice [and Scripture then enjoins salve-owners to also ensure their slaves do not have to work all the time].

I think in modern culture we understand the need for rest. We understand the bit about it being good for us. I think we have trouble with the slave/freedom part.

One of the (bitter?) ironies of life is that all these “labour-saving” improvements we were promised have in fact made us work harder. One of the (bitter?) ironies of life is that the more easily we can be connected to the world the harder it is to intentionally dis-connect from the world. And in my experience, if we can't disconnect we don't really do a good job of taking time to rest, time to just “be” with each other. Think of the last time you went somewhere and forgot your phone, or were in a place where there was no phone coverage. How did that feel? Anxiety-producing, or freeing, or a bit of both? It is my contention that we have become enslaved by the devices that were meant to make life easier. It is my contention that it has become too easy to keep working even when we are not “at work”. And it is my contention that we suffer as a result.

So how are you taking Sabbath Time this summer?

I freely admit I am not good at this. In the past I have spent time during my vacation doing things like watching the live feed from the General Council meeting, or getting a start on worship planning for September, or checking my work e-mail, or getting into church (often church-geek) conversations with colleagues on social media, or attending Presbytery Executive meetings by phone, or even stopping by the office “to do a couple of things”. It is my plan/hope/dream that this year between July 18 and August 17 I will do none of those things. I am going to try harder to cast off the slavery of needing to feel that I have to remain connected. How successful will I be? Time will tell. But I am trying because I believe true sabbath time is important. I want to do it because I think I will be healthier and happier when I get back.

What about you? How will you make time for sabbath this summer?

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